About Karen Tongson

Photographed by Betsy Seder

Photographed by Betsy Seder

Karen Tongson is the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (2011), and Why Karen Carpenter Matters (2019). Her writing and cultural commentary have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly, BuzzFeed Reader, NPR, The Washington Post, and Public Books, as well as in the academic journals Public Culture, Social Text, GLQ, American Quarterly, and Nineteenth-Century Literature, among other public and scholarly venues. In 2019, Tongson received the Lambda Literary Jeanne Córdova Award for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction.

She has two books in progress: Empty Orchestra: Karaoke, Queer Performance, Queer Theory (Duke University Press) and NORMPORN: Television and the Spectacle of Normalcy (NYU Press).

Postmillennial Pop , the award-winning book series she co-edits with Henry Jenkins at NYU Press, has published twenty titles. You can also hear Karen talk about pop culture, the arts and entertainment on the weekly Pop Rocket Podcast hosted by comedian Guy Branum. 

She is Associate Professor of English, Gender & Sexuality Studies, and American Studies & Ethnicity at USC. She joined the faculty in fall 2005 after receiving her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Before coming to USC, Tongson held a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship in Literature at UC San Diego, and a UC Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Irvine. 

Born in Manila, Philippines to one of the nation's founding families of Latin jazz—the Katindig clan—Karen immigrated to the U.S in the early 1980s and became a U.S. citizen in 1989. She lives in Los Angeles and is married to media scholar and TV columnist, Sarah Kessler. They have two cats, Lily and Corky.